B’leve: A Youthbased Cause Making a Difference

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Rachael Gibson, Staff Writer

When driving through the streets of Downtown Olympia or along the freeway headed north, homeless encampments can be seen scattered all along the road. From a young age, parents have told us to “be careful”, and walk on the other side of the street if something or someone looks dangerous or threatening. This caution, however, has unfortunately contributed to the creation of a negative stereotype, or stigma, used when describing homelessness: homeless people are just drug addicts, homeless people need to work harder so they can get a job, or homeless people are lazy, etc. are all ways that those less fortunate than the general population have been made marginalized. These definitions and ideas lead us to see people as who we think they are, rather than who they truly are.

The Founding of B’leve

B’leve (bee-lieve) is a group made up of seniors from Tumwater High School with a goal, shared with us by Preston Sands, “to not only help the homeless community that we come in contact with every single day, but to create an awareness of the actual stories behind the people that we typically see as the homeless crowd.” Brian Le, Emily Knight, Preston Sands, Linsy Manley, and Luca Angove have created a self-funded community outreach group working on combating not only homelessness, but the negative stereotypes that have been culturally instilled on the homeless. The team creates care packages full of hygiene products, snacks, and masks, then hands them out locally, mainly within Downtown Olympia. Along with distributing bags, they also work to start a dialogue and build relationships with individuals. This dialogue is what creates real change in the minds of the community. The small act of just sharing someone’s story can be an instrumental tool in sparking change within the hearts of family members and friends.

Brian Le had the idea to start this group during his Freshman year of high school. “ . . . I started to run with the cross country team. We used to always meet at Tumwater Falls and we’d always have to make our way through Downtown for our runs. I guess throughout the progressive years, you could just see the encampments grow and grow.” Once Covid-19 struck, Brian knew it was time to start reaching out to friends who he thought would be interested in joining the cause. What started out as a small idea has grown significantly. The group is currently in the works to become a nonprofit organization. 

Steps to Becoming a Nonprofit

The process to becoming an organization can be long and sometimes difficult. To obtain a 5013C, a non profit license, you have to get registered through the State which currently could take upwards of a couple months. The B’leve group has decided that the best option for them right now is to partner with another nonprofit organization. Le states, “through this partnership, we can still claim the nonprofit tag . . . and help other communities without ourselves making that extra step [of getting the license].” Partnering with an organization will make it so the group can receive the rewards that come along with the nonprofit organization title, without having to run an organization completely independently; The partnership will make it so the B’leve group can start a nonprofit website and be able to do more community outreach.

The group is currently looking for a shelter or institution to partner with, but it is very important to everyone in B’leve that the organization that the group they partner with has the same values and core beliefs as them. According to Sands, “We want to partner with a group that is helping out the homeless actively, while we can share their stories from the other side. So we want to be really deliberate in picking what nonprofits we want to work with.” The group has started to reach out to organizations to see if they are willing to partner with B’leve. Unfortunately, Brian Le shared that, “From the organization that we did message, they reached back to us and, right now, as we know, because of Covid, it’s kind of hard to reach out to shelters because of Covid protocols.” The group is still reaching out to organizations in hopes of finding one to partner with, but they’re in no rush right at this moment because they think that it is more important to truly connect with the organization, than to hurry into something that doesn’t feel right and has the potential of not working out.

Impact 

Homelessness is obviously not just a struggle here in Olympia but all around the world. The members of the B’leve group know that they aren’t going to solve the world’s problems, but even if the smallest gesture can make an impact on someone’s day, that’s all that matters. Emily Knight explained the impact that the small acts of kindness she creates do not only impact her, but family members as well. “There’s this man, he’s near my house, and I gave him a set of paintbrushes. So this is a visual impact. And I see him painting with the paintbrushes. I know personally, in my family there’s a lot of negativity regarding this homeless situation. It’s caused a bit of a rift between me and my parents, but I know that my dad is kind of starting to accept it, and I think he’s stepping back a bit to try and take a look through how I see things.” Knight felt that she didn’t just impact that man, but helped one of her own family members open their minds and understand the reality of these people’s situations.

This is just one example of many groups that are doing their best to help out their communities. The question then becomes what we as individuals can do to contribute. Perhaps, rather than being quick to jump to conclusions, we as people could take a step back and reflect on where our ideas and misconceptions are coming from. It’s this metacognition that is potentially essential in changing the hearts and minds of the community on an individual level. Maybe change looks like asking someone how their day is going the next time you drive past a person holding a sign. Like B’leve has stated, it really is the small things that count. Doing what we can to try and lessen the cultural divide between those that have a roof over their heads and those that don’t is all that matters; slowly but surely, positive impact will take place. All we have to do is try. 

 

By: Betty Benson, Jenna Carrothers, and Rachael “Gibby” Gibson